Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sin and Vice

I am not Catholic, and I'll just be honest: I didn't really understand the concept of Lent until I was in college. I don't even think I'd heard of it. People, the crazy Christians in my homeland think Catholics are all sinning sinners who sin because they worship idols. I once attended a church service where a missionary came and talked about his trips to Spain trying to Christianize that bunch of Mary-loving sinners. Nope, I'm not kidding. Honestly, I only attended because there was a cute boy there. And thankfully, we're married now and neither one of us have been around that particular brand of crazy in years.

So my first year of college, I was astounded by the number of people asking me what I was giving up for Lent. Um, well, I don't know. I explained that I wasn't Catholic. I think at the time I was a Buddhist. Because when you're 18 and have a religion professor who looks like Morrissey, yeah, you're Buddhist. You're just waiting for some new hot guy to swoop in and explain "secular humanism." ANYWAY, I was informed that it wasn't really just a Catholic thing and that I had to give up something. So I gave up Cokes. At the time, I drank a lot of the real, sugared Cokes (and, actually, did until I went on WW when I lived in CA--my husband found a picture of me drinking one on an old memory card the other night and yelled out, "It's like seeing Big Foot!"). I think I lasted about two days before I was filling up my glass at the dining hall, saying something about sleep deprivation and FUCK IT, I'M A BUDDHIST NOW. Again, 18. And life. However, the girls on my freshman hall were not similarly deterred. There was a lot of discussion of ceasing to eat after a certain hour, or locking up chocolate or whatever.

So basically, it was a diet disguised by religion. TWO OF MY FAVORITEST THINGS, YOU GUYS. But again, we were all 18. So I won't be hatin.

Fast forward 10 years or so and immediately after the New Orleans lovefest of Mardi Gras had ended (we didn't even have time to sprinkle that sawdust stuff on the barf, ya'll!), my Facebook feed BLOWS UP with what everyone is giving up for Lent. It's chocolate, it's fast food, it's Facebook (meta, that one), it's online shopping, it's all this stuff. All stuff that no one really needs, but that make our lives better in one way or another. And the comments that people are saying about the stuff that they want to give up--it's internet self flagellation. It's "I feel horrible that I eat so much" or "McDonald's is so gross so I'm giving it up." Everyone is explaining why they have to give up something in this sick, sad tone, with this idea that they have to give this one thing up, just to try to be a little bit more perfect. Just to further fit into this narrow, constrictive role that we force ourselves into.

(It should be noted that I have never heard of a man giving up various foodstuffs for Lent. Or for any other reason, for that matter.)

Guys, it is totally ok to like things that aren't good for you. We don't have to feel guilty about it. I'm not knocking Lent if you do it for very real, religious purposes. But it's not a diet. It is not going to cure you of loving sweets. And really, you shouldn't want for it to.

Today, since it is rainy and since it is February 29 and, from what I've heard, Say Something Nice Day on the internetz, I am calling out my vices. All things that I apologetically love and that I refuse to be embarrassed by and definitely refuse to give up.

1. Diet Coke. I know it is rotting my brain. But that very first drink of a freshly opened bottle of Diet Coke--there is nothing better. I read this thing in a book by Michael Pollan once about all the gas that is used delivering and manufacturing diet sodas, and Mr. Pollan is quick to point out that this is a foodstuff that has no nutritional value at all. It should have made me feel bad, but really, I just giggled with glee and took a big swig. Sorry Michael.

2. McDonald's cheeseburgers and fries. My mom loves to tell people that as a kid, I hated McDonald's. I remember me making her take me there to purchase the Happy Meal toy and that's it. But, I don't know how or when, but somehow, I developed a taste for a plain McDonald's cheeseburger (just the cheeseburger, not a Big Mac or any of that) and an order of fries. It is the simplest thing, and it tastes so good. I have found that this, combined with a large McDonald's Diet Coke, is a cure-all to most stomach issues I might have. Eating it while hungover is also a real plus.

3. Women's magazines. When I was a freshman in college (and Buddhist!), I took a women's studies class. We only met once a week, and one week we were told to bring in women's magazines. Then we all sat around and looked at them, and talked about what they did to women. I remember saying all this crap about feeling marginalized by them. I wrote a paper about it, ya'll. All the while, I was subscribed to about 5 of them. I wish I had had the lady-balls then to just look my professor square in the eye and say, "PRETTY CLOTHES!! OOOH, SPARKLY THINGS!" Look, I know the kinds of ideas they put in women's head. But, if you look for it, there are always bits of female strength in the fashion mags. And well, sometimes a girl just needs to shut it all off and look at shoes.

4. Velveeta shells and cheese. I have made mac and cheese with gruyere, with Stilton, with artisanal cheddar from a farm I personally visited. And it's been great, I guess, but nothing compares with the taste and pure comfort of Velveeta shells and cheese. Matt agrees, and this is probably the one food thing we do agree on. I maybe only buy it once a year, but when I do, I can eat the whole box. Freaking delicious, and I love to watch the cheese come out of the little packet like the piece of some kid's rubber boot!

5. True crime dramas. I discovered the ID channel once when I was sick and unable to move off of my couch and it was all downhill from there. I love to turn on one of these while I am cleaning up the house because the repeat themselves so much that you can get the jist of some tragic, horrible tale even if you occasionally step out of the room or have to turn the vacuum up over the volume of the tv. They are also fun to watch while under something furry and with a lot of judgement: "YOU TOTALLY DID IT!" or "WHY DID YOU MARRY THAT PIECE OF CRAP?" All acceptable verbal responses. Which brings me to....

6. Lifetime Movies. For real, ya'll. TOO MUCH GOOD STUFF.

7. Intervention and Hoarders. My Monday nights are stacked, ya'll. These are the two shows, I absolutely, positively have to watch live. HAVE TO. I curl up on my couch with a Weight Watchers fudgesicle, and I watch the Hell out of those shows. Are they exploitative? Yup. Do they make a point of showing people with often debilitating mental illness at their worst points? You gotcha. And there I sit. Week after week.

8. Steak. I love a good steak. And I know cows have big eyes. I'm sorry. Those eyes are the windows to their own deliciousness. (And if you ever want to know how to make the best steak you'll ever eat in yo' own kitchen, hit me up. I'll share!)

I invite you to fess up to your own vices, whatever they may be. Perfection is a myth, but having a sweetass time with the things you love is totally not.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Princess Dress

My daughter, Alice, is off the chain. For real, you guys.

This past weekend, my mom was in. When my mom is around, we tend to do two things and two things only: 1) Eat vile, disgustingly bad for you food and 2) Go to Target where we walk around aimlessly. It is glorious. We try on things that look interesting, drink Starbucks and sometimes, buy a bag of that uber-salty popcorn they sell JUST BECAUSE.

Alice really adores my mom because my mom indulges her crazy, wild and go-go-go spirit. She knows that when Memaw is in town, there will be no quiet night at home. There will be full on, tires on the road, fun. This is best illustrated by the fact that whenever she talks to my mom on the phone, she will say, "Where we goin', Memaw?"

So we were walking around Target on a Saturday afternoon, and take a turn by the toddler girls clothes. Alice really has nothing for spring, except for a few things I picked up at the outlet malls to take to Jamaica with us. I was looking at the play-clothes table--you know, that table they have that has $4 tee-shirts and cotton shorts (all my children have had a LOT of those things)--and all of a sudden, I hear, "MOMMY, PRINCESS! I WANT PRINCESS!"

Now, if you know anything at all about me, you know that hearing that was kind of like hearing, "MOMMY, MITT ROMNEY!! I WANT MITT ROMNEY!" Princesses are just not my bag. I don't like the antiquated ideas they give girls about femininity and relationships, and well, I have a deep, inexplicable hatred for the Disney corporation that is borderline hippie and also borderline insane.

I turn around, and Alice is standing there with this amazingly fluffy pink carnation of a dress. It, even in a size 18 months, which is a few sizes down from what she actually needs, was much wider that she is. It was this pinky silk look top with a huge crinoline skirt. For real, ya'll. Go to Target and look for something that looks like cotton candy on a hanger. That is what she was holding.

I say, really noncommittally I might add, "That is a pretty dress." Alice replies by squealing with all the joy of a sailor who just received shore leave and finds that he is at a Girls Gone Wild party. "THEY HAVE A BOW MAMA!!! A PINK BOW!!!"

Gabby was not like this. Gabby was dressed like I dressed--she wore jeans and corduroys and t-shirts and little sweaters. She has been opinionated with her clothes from the very beginning, picking out her things when she was barely old enough to talk, and none of it was ever overtly feminine. Even when she went through a pink phase, it was tempered--her favorite tee had a sparkly skull and crossbones on the front. Even now, with Alice, Gabby and I tend to pick out things that are bright shades of color, not just pink. Alice doesn't like jeans--says they are "hurt-y"--so we buy jeggings and lots of black leggings to layer with dresses or t-shirts or whatever. Left to her own devices, though, Allie goes to the pink. And this is new, weird territory.

By this time, my mom is standing with Alice, and is rustling through the rack of dresses to find a 3T. And Alice is still jumping about, and somewhere in the middle of this, Mom puts a white Easter bonnet on her head. So now she is looking for a mirror and people are starting to look and and remark about the sweet little girl in the hat. One man leans down and says something to her about being cute, and she replies plaintively, "I am getting a princess dress!"

Mom gets excited about buying the dress; Gabby and I stare in disbelief. I do see her point, I guess, when she remarks that between Gabby and myself, she never got to buy pink dresses. This is new for her too, and she is happy about it. She talks Alice into the hat rather than the bow and throws the dress in the cart. I try to talk Alice into a neon yellow cardigan and skirt combo instead (so on trend!), but she's having none of it. Pink princess dress it is.

Mom reminds me that she can wear it for Easter and then around the house to have fun. Truthfully, we don't do anything for Easter outside of our house--we make eggs, and I usually buy a humongo leg of lamb that we slow grill and eat with spring-y things like asparagus and herby tabbouleh. That is Easter to me. Perhaps this year, I will be forced to find some sort of worshipful event so that Alice can wear her dress.

When we got back to the car, Alice had to call Matt and let him know about the dress, and then when we walked in the door that night, she happily eschewed the Dora MagnaDoodle that Mom had also bought in the dead run to get the dress out and show it to her daddy. He was excited, a lot more than I thought he'd be, and oohed and aahed at all the correct moments.

The next morning, Sam and Allie were laying in bed with Matt while I got ready to go to breakfast. Alice climbed on Matt's legs which were bent under the blankets and slid down them like a slide. She bounced around the bed, hitting Sam a few times and causing all manner of mayhem. Matt remarked to her, "You are awfully rough to be such a frilly girl." Alice responded in a booming yell, "I am SUPER PRINCESS!"

Super princess. Couldn't have said it better myself.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

If you've ever felt bad about yourself.... needn't. This is an all too true account of my particular brand of crazy.

Last night, my husband wanted me to run by the store and pick up some things before coming home. On the list was a 2 liter of Sprite. Now, I don't normally allow my kids to drink sodas in the house. If we go out somewhere and they want to order one, ok, but no sitting around the house, playing Wii and becoming a human Mountain Dew sponge. But after our trip to Jamaica, I have taken to having a cranberry and vodka after the lights go out, so there's been a bunch of cranberry juice around the house (CLEAN URINARY TRACTS FOR ALL!!!). And Gabby wanted to make herself a mocktail of sorts and this required Sprite. So, yeah. I went and bought it.

ANYWAY, when I got home, I couldn't find the damn thing. I had checked out my own groceries, so I assumed I had left it sitting at the store. This is pretty regular for me--on the off chance that someone makes me go to Wal-Mart (which is the only thing in the known universe that I hate more than beets. Except for maybe the Boston Red Sox.) I ALWAYS forget something on the little turn around thing. I was pretty mad about it, cursing my forgetfulness and stupidity. I promised to go back to the store and get the Sprite.

This morning, I got the kids ready for school. I thought I smelled something weird in Sam's room, but I think that turned out to just be Sam because he's an 8 year old boy, and let me tell you--boys smell. There is this certain je ne sais quoi about a young boy's room, and if you think differently, that yours doesn't, well, you're wrong. Then we got out to the car, and I really smelled it. I asked Gabby if she did, and she said that she didn't really. It was kind of like death. Like something rotting. Like my refrigerator freshman year in college.

I dropped the kids off at school, and continued on my merry way to work. At one point, I turn from the main four lane onto this little country road. As I was turning, I heard this huge KER-CHUNK and something heavy hit the back of my seat and fell to the floorboard.

And that is when I lost my mind.

I spent the rest of the 15 minute car ride, absolutely, completely, and TOTALLY convinced that there was a dead animal in the backseat of my car. I imagined some mutant bat that had managed to squeeze in a window that wasn't shut tightly enough or perhaps a possum that had secretly been in there for a day or so and had only recently died. This horrible mutant creature had been buried under my winter coat, which was laying haphazardly in the backseat, avoiding detection by anyone. I almost convinced myself that it had three heads.

Should I pull over? No, then the THING back there might attack and I would run into the road and be hit by an eighteen wheeler. AND I'M NOT WEARING NICE UNDIES TODAY.

What was the state of The Thing? Either dead or in a coma.

How would I get it out? Someone at work would know.

Are there laws about what to do with the dead carcass of something evil that has been laying in your backseat for days? Someone at work would know.

I, no shit, turned off the radio and sat in quiet consternation for the rest of my trip. I thought about my fate, my life, and how completely convinced I was of the dead thing in my backseat.

And I realized there was no real witty way to write a Facebook status about a dead thing in your car. DRATS.

When I got to work, I got my stuff together (all in the front seat) and got out of the car. I stood beside the car, took a deep breath and counted to three. Then, I lifted up the seat AND....

Yeah, it was that bottle of Sprite.

God, I'm a moron.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Yesterday my son received the Star Wars Blu-Ray movies that he has been pining for like you would not believe. It took both my husband and I calling our rural post office and insisting the package was there to which we both got the lovely and heartening response, "Ya'll get a lot of packages, but I ain't-a seen thattun." Finally, it was located, and Sam was able to actually breathe and untangle his hands from the balls of pure fury and nerdy angst that they had become.

He, of course, wanted to watch at least one of the movies, so after dinner, the boys kind of took over the living room. I disappeared to my room, hoping to be unseen with a few catalogs and my phone, but the girls decided they wanted to chill with me, so the next thing I know, we're all piled up in the bed, each girl with her own device, making stupid jokes and watching YouTube videos.
Gabby and I were discussing the case against Lana Del Rey when it got a little quiet, and the next thing I know, Alice, who had been playing Dora rather complacently, let's loose with an "OH, FUCK."

Now, my first reaction was to laugh, because I'm a horrible person and videos of children swearing get me every time. I feel the same way about old people rapping. But for all of my sailor-talk on here and everywhere else, really, I don't really swear in front of the kids. I just don't ever really have a need to. I say things to Matt, and I'm sure they've overheard me drop a few things here and there. But I just don't do it. I don't have a problem with people who do at all. To be honest, it is not something I've actively thought about--it is just something that I find myself not doing. Matt, however, has been known to drop some bombs in front of the kids, mostly because he is much easier angered than me. That, and he seems to bite his mouth a lot while eating. So I have no doubt that she's heard that word before. She could have repeated it from that, or really, she's two--she could have just been putting nonsensical things together to see how they sound. You know. Like the kids do these days.

Anyway, I finally get around to saying something to the effect of, "Alice, you shouldn't say that word. It is not nice." But Gabby was OF COURSE chortling like a maniac, so now Alice is saying "FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK," just trying to get a rise out of her adored big sister. I decide to just leave it alone, and ask Gabby to do the same. She'll either forget about it, or she won't, but hopefully when she is feeling a little jocular and more removed from the situation, I can remind her that that is not a nice word and that she should never, ever, ever say it in front of my mother in law because Daddy doesn't her to know that he's the kind of pinko scum that Bill O'Reilly warned her about.

And I'll just be honest, I was laying there in bed with the two of them, Baby Fuckgate somewhat forgotten after five minutes, congratulating myself on being a pretty good parent and yes, tweeting about it. I had not let the situation get out of hand. I had remained calm. I didn't yell or blame or admonish. I just dealt with it. I was now fully qualified to write a quasi-informed article for the Wall Street Journal telling everyone else how horrible their spawn was and how much better mine are in comparison. HUZZAH!

We're back to having a jolly good time again, and Gabby is doing her newest version of Rick Rolling me, which is to play the Black Eyed Peas and do odd dances until I beg for mercy. And out of nowhere, she goes, "I heard Rihanna got back with Chris Brown."

OH. FUCK. (I MEAN FUDGE. MAPLE WALNUT FUDGE!) This is not something I want to discuss. After the beating took place way back when, I had had a series of uncomfortable conversations with Gabby about it. It is not easy to explain this kind of thing, you know. At the time, she enjoyed music by both artists, and had that weird feeling that we all get when someone we admire does not live up to our expectations or in the case of Rihanna, is harmed in some way. Plus, she had (and actually still has) a much more glamorous idea of the music business than what most adults have. She was imagining this all happening on Camp Rock soundstage--not in the gritty reality of a Los Angeles street. None of it made sense to her, and it was my job to try to explain it. Yeah. Whoever told you changing diapers was the worst part of parenting, well, they didn't know shit.

I answer that yes, I had heard that too. And of course, the next word is "Why?" Of course. Why wouldn't it be? Isn't that what we all want to know?

And of course, my answer in its abbreviated form is, "UHHHHHHHH.....well...."

Because none of us know. We don't know what makes a woman return to her abuser, what tells one human being that it is ok to be hurt horribly by another human being if that hurting is followed by a few years of distance. We don't know why a beautiful, talented and seemingly amazing lady would want to go back to a man who is, at best, a confused child and, at worse, a complete psychopath.

I pulled the marbles out of my mouth and talked to her about it, trying my best to explain that I didn't know, that relationships are all strange and different people have different reasons for being in them or staying in them. And I tried to say that I didn't know, that it was a wonderful question, perhaps one that one of the many handlers that surround Rihanna should ask. I said all that, but instead of it being one paragraph of kind-of coherent thoughts, it was a lot of "Um, well, you know...." and "Uh, I guess, um..."

I have a great relationship with my oldest daughter, one that has really (re)bloomed over the last year. She talks to me about stuff and well, last night, instead of taking the night to sit in her room and text her friends, she chose to lay about on my bed with me and her baby sister, laughing, watching the world's dumbest videos and making me question Al Gore again. But it keeps getting harder. The questions keep getting tougher. I am glad she asks them, I would never wish that she didn't. But oh my stars.

Someone should write a book. Someone should, instead of writing another tome about how bratty and horrible American children are, write a guide for parents that you could effectively flip to a chapter and have a ready made answer on any subject, complete with a list of sources for further research. Domestic violence? Page 46. Bullying? Page 3. Why the Black Eyed Peas continue to have a career? Page 124. I would memorize that book. By the time Alice is 12, I would be able to quote from it while asleep or while playing Words With Friends and braising a chicken. SOMEONE NEEDS TO GET ON THAT. PRONTO.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


This morning, I totally wiped out on my front porch. We had our only real burst of winter on Sunday, giving us about 6 inches of wet, slushy snow to contend with on Monday. If by "contend," you mean, of course, staying inside, eschewing work and school and lamenting the lack of good daytime television programming. This morning, the kids were on a two hour delay for school, so I slept a bit later than normal and went to work on my own. In the process of scurrying out the door so as not to be late, my Fryes hit a remaining icy patch, and I ended up flat on my ass. I'm not going to front: it hurt.

When I was in college, I took this Buddhism class. I took it for two reasons: 1) It fit some random Gen Ed requirement and 2) The professor was totally smoking hot. I had had the same professor for my freshman seminar the year before, so was well aware of the hotness I was signing myself up for. (What a wonderful "WELCOME TO COLLEGE, SWEETHEART!" that was!) It sure didn't hurt that the guy liked a lot of the same bands that I liked and would play them in the morning as we all shuffled to our seats in this attic classroom of a 300 year old building. There was a lot of Morrissey, if I remember correctly, which totally gets one in the mood for an angsty, heady fantasy session wherein you write a lot of "MRS. MORGAN HOTPROFESSOR" all over your notebooks while you're supposed to be writing notes about a lack of attachment to earthly relationships. IRONY--I HAZ IT.

A big midterm for the class just happened to take place on the same day as this huge ice storm, one of the only ones we had while I was in school. I really wanted to be out of school that day. For one thing, I was somewhat unprepared and didn't want the professor to think that I was stupid and somehow undeserving of all the postcoital chocolate milkshakes I imagined him making for both of us after a particularly trying night of discussing nirvana. For the other thing, my car was completely encased in ice. It was really eerie looking, as a matter of fact, and I haven't seen anything like it before or since. After struggling mightily just to get the damn door open, I finally resorted to using a case knife and a Norton Critical Anthology as a kind of crude chisel to get the damn thing out and driveable. I finally got it out, managed to buy a bluebook and made it to the exam in time.

The professor was late that morning, and there was no Morrissey. We were all thinking about leaving, thinking he had called the whole thing off because of inclement weather, when he appeared, looking a tad roughed up and really hot in a "Where's my sexy nurse outfit???" kinda way. He told us that he had slipped on the ice of his walk that morning. He seemed kind of despondent about it; it was clearly more than "I just really bruised my ass." As he handed out the exams, he said in a sad tone that he noticed that when he fell, he did not bounce back up. "I used to bounce," he said.

(Being the kind of person who kind of cares about these things, I must add here that I got a B+ on that midterm, with the professor writing that I had very strong thoughts and ideas and writing and blah blah blah, but he only gave A's to people who showed "graduate level thinking." Which is kind of douchey, Mr. HotProfessor. I was 19. The only thing graduate level about me at 19 was my ability to construct detailed romantic and sexual fantasy.)

So, of course, this is where my mind went this morning. I don't bounce anymore either. I am no longer college age, although I get mistaken for it a lot, due to good aging genes (for real--you should see my 86 year old grandmother--I am a lucky duck) and an abject refusal not to wear beaten up boots with every ensemble. I am close to 30. And as I sat on my porch, thinking about how ungraceful the whole thing was, I realized that maybe, just maybe, it isn't such a bad place to be.

There is a weird feeling, though, when reaching a point where someone you know who once seemed so senior has been before. I googled the professor, and he is not as hot as he once was. (But who am I kidding? I'd still hit it.) If the college rumor mill is to be believed, he didn't get tenure because he got caught trying to reach nirvana with a student. He is now teaching somewhere else. I have this nearly overwhelming urge to email him and say something dumb like "Hey, remember that time you fell and how old you felt? I GET IT NOW. Where's my A in life?"

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Weight Watchers Update

I suck at Weight Watchers. I really do. In total, I have signed up for the program four separate times (including this latest go-round), and every time I have had the best of intentions. But then things start getting in the way--weird work schedules, dinners out, needing to save the monthly fee to put towards trips or car repairs, moving--and nothing turns out the way that I want it to.

I originally signed up for the program (AGAIN) in the middle of January, right after my birthday. I told myself that I would track everything and really dedicate myself to it. I plunked down the fee for three months, so I wouldn't have the excuse of cancelling for that reason. But then I went to Jamaica, and then I came back to an empty refrigerator. And it was as good excuse as any not to do it fully, to kind of half-assedly eat a decent breakfast and lunch then blow everything eating too much bread at dinner. Plus, there is exercise to contend with, and it is so, so hard to motivate myself to do that stuff during the winter. It is a mental block. In the spring, summer and early Fall, I want to exercise. I crave it. I want to be outside running and walking and being active. In the winter, I want to be a garden slug. In a Snuggie.

So I have found myself this week, once again trying to rededicate myself to the program. I have tracked and planned and paid attention. And then yesterday, for the first time since maybe the very first time I started Weight Watchers (way back in '08, I think), I felt it "click." Yesterday, it finally started feeling right. And why? What was the great reason behind this?

Well, I packed my lunch.

My current job is weird in that we don't have an office microwave. We had one, and then it blew up or something and no one replaced it. I don't know why. Up until this point, frozen dinners and a cup of yogurt were my go-to work lunches. They were low in points, easy to prepare and required absolutely no effort in the morning when I am struggling to make the kids' lunches and get everyone out of the door on time. Without a microwave to work with, I just floundered. Sure, there were a couple of days where I made a sandwich for myself. But most days, I just went out to eat fast food or get Subway. And let me tell you--even if my intentions are good in what I get, I always tend to add on something totally unnecessary. Croutons on the salad, cheese on the sandwich, you name it. By the time lunch was over, I had spent a totally disproportionate number of points, and really didn't have much (nutritionally) to show for it. And then of course there were the days where I blew off the points totally and told myself I deserved a big scoop of chicken salad from the restaurant across the road because I unknowingly wore a black bra under a semi-sheer shirt/stubbed my toe/was late/had to make an unsavory phone call.

Yesterday, though, I'm not going to front, I was hungover. Too much wine the night before. And as I was getting ready for work, I thought that nothing sounded good to eat for lunch but a nice peanut butter and banana sandwich (NOT fried, for all of you Elvis fans--and btw, I have the recipe for Elvis's pb&b and yes, it is AMAZING). So I packed it up, along with an apple and some carrots I had bought for the kids. When I was eating, I realized that I enjoyed it much more--plus, I didn't have to venture out in the rain to pick it up. When I put in the points in my tracker, I was amazed at how many points were left for dinner. I even had enough for a snack (which I ended up not even eating because I fell asleep at 9 when I put Allie to bed--glamorous!).
This morning I got up and looked at myself in the mirror, and I liked what I saw. This is all a mind game, I know. But it felt good. Today I have brought a salad and some leftover brie, apples and crackers from V-Day, everything measured out and portioned. I am excited about eating it, and in fact, already would have if one of the muffins I made last night hadn't been a very feeling breakfast (when coupled with an apple and copious coffee).

Does anyone have any dyno-mite lunch ideas that don't require heating? Let me know in the comments or tweet me!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

I fucking love Valentine's Day. I'm not even going to front. I think it is rad. I have always loved it, and I persist, despite the fact that it seems to be somewhat trendy to hate it, to decry it, to roll your eyes in its general direction.

Love is an awesome emotion, as countless pop songs have been telling us for years. So why not celebrate it? Celebrate it in its myriad forms--the love you have for your kids, your dog, your favorite shoes. And today, celebrate yourself too: put on your favorite lipstick, listen to your favorite songs, eat something incredible.

And if you are bored, I implore you to comment or email me or tweet me or send a fucking carrier pigeon my way with two bits of information: 1) your favorite shade of red lipstick and 2) best way to prepare kale. And no, these are not related although since I typed that, my mind is exploding with ways to combine the two.

Happy Valentine's Day and may you eat something so chocolatey that it makes you sick, but sick in a good way and not a bad one.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Why I Care About Whitney

I found out about Whitney Houston's death, fittingly, through Twitter. My daughter saw it on her feed while the rest of the family was playing a little snowy day Rock Band (Alice was wailing on the drums, or "grums" as she calls them), and not believing her, I picked up my phone and confirmed on my own feed. Such is the way things are done now, I suppose. Within minutes, I was posting my own thoughts on Facebook and scouring other people's posts for more information.

It didn't take long, as it never does, for the trolls to come out with their typical rallying call of "SHE WAS A CRACK ADDICT! WHY DO YOU CARE! I SAVE MY GRIEF FOR PEOPLE WHO HAVE NEVER COMMITTED AN OFFENSE OF ANY KIND EVER." I saw this a lot when Amy Winehouse died, and to be honest, I was too upset then to mount any kind of response. I was a big fan of Amy, still am. So I just ignored it. But now, with Whitney, it all just pisses me off.

We all make mistakes and do horrible, horrible things to one another and to ourselves. It is part of the human experience. I dare say that if all of our mistakes, issues and foibles were laid bare to the public absolutely no one would mourn anyone when they died. Or maybe we would, because we would only then realize that no one, no matter how angelic their voice or beautiful their face is immune to the very real notion of being human. Whitney struggled with a very real problem--a disease, in fact--that does not reveal her as a horrible person. It reveals her as a person, a very real, imperfect one. Much like me and you.

My parents divorced when I was two. I don't remember it at all, really, and that's for the best, I suppose. My mom and I moved in with my grandparents for three years following the divorce while my mom got her accounting license and started a business. During this time, she also bought this little gray Mazda RX-7, a two seater deal with plush, burgundy interior. It was the first car she'd ever purchased on her own. She would pull the top down on that thing on the weekends and put me in it, and we would fly down the road to Kingsport to eat dinner out on a Saturday night. Our favorite tapes were the ones by Tina Turner and Whitney Houston, the Whitney album to be exact. I thought about that a lot yesterday. My mom was the age that I am now at that time in her life. She was navigating a new life alone with a toddler and a new business. And Whitney helped, I think. No matter what was going on, she could get in that tiny car on those winding country roads and there was a perfect voice guiding her on.

I asked my mom about that tape this morning and she choked up a bit and said that she had downloaded the album on her iPod when she got rid of the last cassette player she had. She still listens to it, she said.

My first cd was The Bodyguard soundtrack. I have joked a lot in my adult life that everything I ever learned about sex was from Janet Jackson's Janet album, but a lot of what I learned about love and romance was from listening to The Bodyguard in my room, dancing like a maniac to "I'm Every Woman," and imagining who I would someday sing "I Will Always Love You" to. The music was the kind of music that you remember, that got you. I had a lot of other cds during this time period to, but I don't remember much of them. But I can remember specific moments of sitting on this big white trunk that used to sit in my room, the wicker making impressions on the backs of my bare legs and listening to Whitney.

No, I didn't know her, and it may sound odd to someone on Facebook who doesn't mourn celebrities. But she knew me. Somehow, she knew me and she knew my mom and she sang to us. She helped us grow up, to move on, to become who we are.

And yes, people die every day. And it is horrible and sad. But we should not let that reality tell us who is deserving of our grief.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Return of Joe Mauer

Joe Mauer has come back from a long Minnesota winter of chopping wood, drinking hot chocolate and sexin' you up for Fashion Friday because he really, really wants me to buy this dress.
Joe Mauer wants me to buy it--wants all of us to buy it--because it is the perfect dress to wear to a rendezvous in some airport Hilton where he'll sign some balls and you'll have steamy Lifetime movie shower sex. Which, while we're on the subject, why is shower sex even a thing? I have never seen a shower that looked particularly conducive to love making (If you can prove differently, leave a comment. Let's turn this thing into Penthouse Letters, ya'll!). But since we're leaving reality at home here in VA, let's imagine that all those Lifetime movies have been correct, shall we? Joe will tenderly pull on that front tie there, like he's plucking a guy off first (give a minute ya'll--my baseball similes have been stuck in the off-season too!), and the next thing you know, you'll be loosening his gear too, and preparing for a session that will include sex, a cuddle session while you watch Law and Order: SVU and three mocha truffles from this candy store next to where I went to college.

Joe aside, I want to buy it because I have a sick, twisted love affair with polka dots. I freaking love them. And I know what that says about me--that I am some juvenile, Manic Pixie Dream Girl wannabe. I totally fit the role as well--I've got the requisite bangs, the funky purple glasses, the English degree, the no clear and discernible plan for the future. I am, quite obviously, Zooey Deschanel without the bone structure and plus about a 100 spicy chicken asiago clubs from Wendy's. Adding polka dots onto all of that is just a little much, and I know that. But that does not stop me from just going completely nuts when I see the dots. Then I become a puppy, sitting expectantly in front of my treat, panting, slobbering and being an all-together unstable hot mess. Thanks, J.Crew. YOU BASTARDS GET ME EVERY TIME.

The kicker with this dress is that a) it is backordered until March and b) it is $148. I desperately want it to go on sale, or for J.Crew to announce a code or some such. Moreover, I don't even know what size to order. The larger of the two sizes I am now? The size I want to be in the spring (which is the smaller of the two sizes)? But I am afraid to wait too long because I know other people like the dots too, we the Mediocre Manic Pixie "Dream" Girls (heretofore known as MMPDG). So here I sit, check card in hand. Will I go ahead and order it? Will I try to wait out a code? THE SUSPENSE IS KILLING US ALL.

Joe Mauer doesn't understand any of this. He's all like, "Hey girl. It's cool. Just let me go up to Lynchburg and just get it out of the warehouse for you. And if they say they don't have it, I'll just invite them to the gun show, and I'm sure Mickey Drexler will show me the secret stores, where they keep the extra dresses in case of nuclear holocaust. It's worked before, honey. Don't you worry. And while I'm at it, I'll pick up some ribs and we'll smear barbecue sauce all over some white sheets somewhere and I'll tell you about the time I lit Tim Lincecum's hair on fire."

Note: I don't actually think Joe Mauer has lit anyone on fire, but I figure if one is dreaming, it is go big or go home.

Actually, I'm not going to front, the whole J.Crew catalog for February has kind of gotten me in a tizzy, which is not good for anyone involved. And it sucks because I'm really loving the new roll out, and I kinda want it all, which is not something that I've done with any of the more recent roll outs. But I know that all of the stuff is prohibitively expensive and that the quality is not near as good as it was say, in '07, which was a real banner year for the Crew. It really grinds my gears that I know that. I am starting to imagine myself in some nursing home someday, walking around in a bunch of moth eaten sweaters recounting the 2007 J. Crew line like one would discuss a far-off war. "I don't care about another damn picture of the grandkids! If you're comin' to see me in this hellhole, bring me some '07 merino! And some sriracha!"

Pitchers and catchers report next week, the J.Crew roll-out is looking good, I have finally found some foundation that I adore (and that Joe loves too--yeah, MARY KAY!), things are looking up. Next thing you know, I'll actually have Joe Mauer writing these posts for me while I lay back in that dress and eat those truffles. Be ready. The Morgpocalypse waits for no man.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Earthy Mom Reality

I recently read this article and I wanted to write about it. I actually wanted to post it to Facebook too, to remind us all that indeed, everything will be ok, but my husband seems to think there is a special place in Hell reserved for people who post articles from European publications on Facebook ("It just shows you are too pretentious to post the same pretentious articles that everyone else posts from the Times," he said after a few glasses of wine one evening). You all, my gentle readers, are a much more forgiving audience. And it, of course, relates to my life and current experience, and since this is my party, here you go.

I have been pretty crunchy with Alice. I cloth diaper, I am still breastfeeding her at two, I co-sleep, we did Baby Led Weaning and buy wooden toys when we can and I bake my own preservative free bread and when my kid gets a fever, I put potatoes in her socks (for real-this works!). I have bought books and more books and yogurt makers and Rockin' Green detergent and essential oils and now Amazon thinks I am a dirty hippie, apparently, as they no longer recommend me mascara but instead Bac-Out and diaper sprayers. I have done it some to save money, some because I thought it best, and yes, I'll admit, some just to see if I could.

And I'll admit as well that there is a certain amount of self-righteousness that goes into it too. I come home from work and after the initial mild anxiety attack about starting my "second job," I get a lot of pleasure from stuffing the diapers, from snuggling the still sweet baby in bed. "Look how good I am," I think. "I could have just bought a box of Pampers, but here I sit, stuffing away, saving money." And yes, I suppose I am, but it is not like I am funneling all that money away into a college fund somewhere. I bought a bunch of eye shadow this week.

Holding hands with that self-righteousness, skipping along beside, however, comes its cousin, Parental Judgement. I try not to judge people for their parenting choices at all, but I still catch myself doing it. I bet we all do. "Oh, so you're giving your kid Mountain Dew....ohh....." "Your breasts are for your husband and not your baby? For real?" "Letting your kid cry it out? CONCERN-TROLL AWAY!" I never confront people about their parenting decisions--as parents we give ourselves enough guilt without some jerk giving us more, amirite?--but I can't stop my brain from thinking it.

Or maybe I can. My reality now is not that much fun, I'm not going to front. I am on my third cup of coffee of the morning right now, just on the mere hope of staying awake and performing slightly well at my job. I have not gotten a decent night's sleep in over two years. Because I co-sleep, Alice is constantly trying to "dream-feed." Although I have weened her from actually nursing during the night (mostly), she still pulls my hair almost constantly, which has always been her way of getting me awake. She does it in sleep, subconsciously, as well as saying, in sleep, "Mommy, I tire" over and over again. So every night when she starts, I go sleep on the couch and on the way there, I start thinking about something, and the next thing I know, it is 6:15 and I have totally reimagined how to organize my closet, but unfortunately, it is time to go to work, and I have not had any sleep. This is not fun. Even if she starts out the night in her crib, at some point, she wakes up enough to come to our bed and then it is all down hill. We are investigating lots of options from this point--moving her to a toddler bed, having Matt do all of the night-time bed stuff so she totally divorces the idea from me, weaning her totally--but nothing is happening fast enough. And we also struggle with the fact that we have a lot of changes coming down the pike during this year (we are planning on moving during the summer) and don't want to do too much at one time for her (we are also working on potty learning, which is something she seems totally ready for). I am trying to parent her the way I have from the beginning--by listening to her cues and doing things based on what she seems ready for--but again, it is not fast enough for me. And here I sit with my coffee, knowing that by the time 5:00 rolls around, I'll be walking in the door as a zombie, but one that is expected to make dinner (with Alice perched on the counter beside me), pick up the house, and listen interestedly as my 12 year old recounts what grievances she has against the American education system and how some other kid in her class is at best a fucktard and at worst a sociopath (my words of course).

So lately, I have caught myself thinking: "I wish I had just put her in a crib. All of this would be over by now." "I wish I didn't have to devote all that time to folding diapers on top of all this." "I wish my kids were just happy with some freaking chicken fingers and macaroni and cheese because if Sam asks for Indian food one more night this week, I'm going to kill a puppy." The judgment has started to fall away. Although there are still those times when I revel in my own crunchy awesomeness, I get it. I see all sides. I'm like this omniscient-Mommy-being with a scepter of truth and honesty and light and a perfect grilled cheese sandwich in one hand a Dora band-aid on the other.

We all make parenting decisions based on what we know at the time. We do our best. No one goes out of their way to just supremely screw up their child. We do what is best for our kid, personally. I did what I thought was best. Was it the right thing? Maybe. Could I have done it differently for a better outcome? Definitely.

It brings me great joy to know, though, that my kid will probably be ok. She'll be funny and bright and self-aware, just as she is now. She won't still be breastfeeding when she is, say 18, and I suddenly need all that money that I should have saved up by using cloth diapers. She'll be thinking about sleeping with someone else at that point, and I will dream of the days when I gazed over at her chubby-cheeked profile and brushed the rapidly growing curls away from her forehead.

And I will be ok too. I got through college, after all, on a slurry of Mountain Dew, espresso, and masochism. In the grand scheme of things, this ain't nothing.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

That Other One

If you are my friend on Facebook, you have heard this story, albeit in truncated form. Pardon my overlapping stories--there are only so many things that go through my big old fat head every day that are not "CHOCOLATE!" or "SSSSSHHHHHOOOOOOOEEEEESSSSSS!" (In other news, my life is, indeed, a Cathy comic strip. Ack.)

Last night, my son realized that he needed to do a book report. It is actually due on Thursday, but he has to turn it on Wednesday, as he is going on a gifted and talented field trip on Thursday, and then well, Matt and I are going out tonight and he has to have Matt's help with the book report. Actually, strike that. He doesn't need Matt's help at all--he is fully capable of writing a report and doing a decent job of it--but Matt has to be there for his own self, because he wants to sit over Sam's shoulder and be all helicopter-dad and talk to him about dangling modifiers like he is a 19 year old college freshman and not an 8 year old kid. Being our kid is FUN.

So Matt asks him what he wants to do the report on. And Sam thinks a bit, reconsiders his parameters (Harry Potter and LOTR being off limits as they are over 50 pages long), and then says, "The Nose." Meaning the short story by Gogol. And while I adore that my child reads Gogol, and golly gee is he smart, of course, I am sitting there thinking, "OH MY GOD, MY CHILD WILL NEVER HAVE FRIENDS AND HE DOESN'T LIKE SOUP AND SOMEDAY HE MAY MOVE TO BOSTON!" Because I am a mom and I worry. It is just what I do. If I were a super hero, worrying would be my power. My action figure would have amazing self-wringing hands and a nervous stomach that gurgles during my children's spelling bees.

So all of this is going on, and the house is loud because I'm watching a rerun of Hoarders while I fold clothes (Hoarders related cleaning is amazing--therapeutic and amazingly efficient), and Matt is encouraging Sam to cut it down a little, because left to his own devices, Sam's book report might be 25 pages long. Alice suddenly appears. She wriggles out of her "I love cupcakes" t-shirt, given to her by her adoring big sister. Then she wriggles out of her yoga pants, flinging them to the side just so. Then she is standing there, in nothing but a pink Bum Genius diaper. Effortlessly, and I mean effortlessly, she pulls the snaps open, pulls off the diaper in one swift motion and twirls it above her head as if lassoing something particularly large.


That's what she yells, and the house goes a little quiet for a bit. And then she erupts into giggles, turns around and runs into the bathroom, cackling like the little maniac that she is. I am left holding a newly clean t-shirt and wondering if strip clubs offer any kind of benefit packages that does not include all the drinks you can guzzle.

So, yes, I have the two children in the gifted and talented program, one who started a dinner time conversation about hexadecimals the other night and the other who is doing a second grade book report on a satirical short story published in 1835. And that is all well and good. But I also have that other one, and Lord only knows what she will be. Right now, she wants to be a ballerina when she grows up, but when she says that, it also sounds like she is saying that she wants a burrito. All I know is that she has an effervescent smile that lights up the room and that I am so happy that she is mine. Clothed or not.

Just remind me of that the day she calls me and asks me to bail her out of jail. Please.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Getting to Know My Daughter

Over the weekend, my husband and son attended roll-out parties for Dark Ascension, which is some new thing for the Magic game that they enjoy/obsess over. This meant they both stood in front of me over the past two weeks at varying intervals and talked and all I heard was "NERD NERD NERD NERD NERD." I could tell you more about it, I suppose, had I listened without my eyes glazing over. Since the boys were otherwise engaged, the girls and I spent Friday evening and Saturday going out to eat, going to the mall, and listening to really bad pop music in the car. It was GLORIOUS.

One thing about having three kids is that you get to know your kids in terms of the others. You see the way they interact with one another, the way they handle situations differently than their siblings, the differing ways they communicate. You start thinking in terms of "X is more sensitive than Y" or "Y has a shorter temper than X." And even though it sounds paradoxical, this kind of parenting helps you to tailor your parenting to fit the needs of each individual child--you know what methods work for one and are too much for another because you can see the way the whole thing works. I try to spend as much time as possible just being solo with one kid or another, but a lot of times those times feel "functional"--I am taking them somewhere or another, they are just left at home with me while the other does something else, that kind of thing.

Being around Gabby this last weekend showed me how much she has changed. Last school year, I have to say, was a bit of a struggle for us. Gabby was moody, surly, and very nearly overcome with drama at school. It was hard to talk to her at all, much less have any type of meaningful conversation. Any time we had together was a lot of me giving her stern talks about one thing or another. This year she has been phenomenally better--we have all noticed just how much easier daily life is. The best thing is, though, that she really seems to be getting a handle on "who" she is and what she wants her life to be like. This is perhaps one of my favorite things about being a parent so far--seeing this kind of knowledge bloom in a child and watching what she does with it.
Watching her this weekend though, I realized one thing: Gabby is kickass. She is someone that had I known at her age, I would have been completely in awe of. For one thing, when I was in seventh grade, I had no handle on what I was, what I wanted, or what I could be. I was an awkward kid with braces who did much, much better with books than with actual, living people. I had friends, but none that were into the same things as me. To remedy this, I mostly just tried to hide what I was really into, and to be honest, that is something I struggle with even now. Not Gabby. She likes what she likes, and doesn't really care what you think about that. She makes no bones about the fact that no one at her school understands her music, her jokes, the internet memes she is shameless in guffawing at. And she is ok with that. Why wouldn't she be?

Her fashion is also strictly her own. She has a closet full of t-shirts and skinny jeans, mostly all in bright colors. Where she goes crazily off the chain, though, is the accessories. For instance, today I sent her to school wearing a headband that had a Koosh ball attached to it and a pair of orange Dr. Seuss Chuck Taylors. She delights in getting up in the morning and putting together these things. While shopping on Saturday, I asked her if she knew anyone who dressed like her. She just gave me this look, this "God, MOM" look that I know very well because it is my look that I still give to my mom on the regular. And I'm glad she shot me that look too, because I was needed to be reminded that she was in fact mine, and not, say, the love child of Kathleen Hanna and Betsey Johnson.

I have racked my brain all weekend, wondering what I did to make her so awesome, so different from the buck-toothed girl hiding in her huge pants and ratty sweaters. And I don't know. I wish I did. I wish I could write it all here and give you all the secrets, or maybe write a book to be handed out in maternity wards: "How NOT To Have One of Those Kids From the Mall That You Hate." I think I just got really, exorbitantly lucky.

Or maybe it was the internet's doing. For once, THANKS AL GORE!

Friday, February 3, 2012

The hottest trend for Spring: NEON Colored Saliva

Reader AKM, who may be the most wonderful person who has ever lived, alerted me to the fact that you can purchase Cry Baby Tears on Amazon. Why I have not looked there is beyond me. No one ever said I was the sharpest knife in the drawer. The last time I found them was in a seaside candy store in Monterey, CA, and the whole thing was kind of charmed, like running into your kindergarten boyfriend and realizing that you share a love for baby hippos and pizza with pineapple on it and that he looks like Morrissey in his prime. I figured there had to be a little bit of special in the air for me to be reunited with my childhood favorite candy. Turns out there just needs to be a little bit o' Amazon.

So while I was sitting here, trying to debate if $23 for candy comes out of the "food" budget or the "fun" budget, and, more importantly, how many Weight Watchers points one box would come out to, I read the comments from other orderers on Amazon. One person noted that they made his/her teeth hurt and tongue bleed. And that is when I remembered the pure, masochistic joy of this candy. Yes, aside from the weird effect it had on my saliva, I distinctly remember eating so many that my tongue bled. And that the mixture of the salty, metallic blood and the tangy remnants of Cry Baby's was oddly good.

Oh, you're stopping reading now?

I grew up during the halcyon days of the late 80's and early 90's. My mom was a hippie parent compared to most around us--she wouldn't let me drink soda until the tumultuous day when my dad and step-mom gave it to me, and the only fruit roll ups I got were these weird ones that were sold in big baskets at the front of the Food Lion and had pictures of fruit on them (they were basically fruit leathers). [Note: I once got tragically and horribly ill on Gushers that I had snuck into the grocery cart, and my mom basically "I told you so'ed" at me while I was puking.] Still, there weren't a whole lot of rules about my food intake. I got to go to McDonald's when I wanted, and my favorite treat was getting to go to Applebee's and order about 15 lemonades and slurp them all down. For instance, every day when I got to my mom's office after school, I bought a Mello Yello and a honey bun. Think about how much sugar is in that. I did that EVERY DAY for years, saving my change and buying it on the sly while my mom did taxes and probably worried about taking me home to feed me a balanced dinner.

Now, there's the obesity epidemic and the president is telling us all how we should and should not eat. We get mad at Paula Deen because she pushes fatty food while knowing the consequences such a diet can bring. And we look at our children, and we all monitor everything they eat. We worry about developing their palates, about making sure they are getting a variety of colored vegetables. I have sat up at night and worried over my son Sam, because he doesn't like soup. SOUP. How will that affect his daily life? What if he gets a wonderful job but is fired for not eating his boss's chili? What if he becomes homeless because of it? What will he eat because HE CANNOT GO TO A SOUP KITCHEN??!?!

I'm not saying we should all go back to not caring what our kids eat. But it does help to think in terms of moderation. Sure, you should expose your kids to a healthy, wide range of tastes. But when I think about those moments of sitting in the back of our SUV on our way to somewhere or the other, munching on so much brightly colored candy that it caused my mouth to declare war on itself, I can't think of a better memory. I kinda hope that my kids have their own special things like that. And if it is a vegetable that they remember so fondly, I think I'd be a little sad.

I am wearing bright blue eye shadow as I write this, so taking my advice on fashion is purely at your own risk.

I think I forgot to mention in my slurry of Jamaica posts that our bags were lost on the way home. And not just "Oh, it's on the next flight up here, we'll bring it to you shortly" lost. Like "HOLY FUCK WE HAVE NO RECORD OF YOUR BAGS EXISTING LIKE EVER" lost. Once we came through customs in Boston, we brought our bags to be checked right back in so we didn't have to tote them to our hotel and then they entered some kind of nega-universe, time warp thing. And I'm not going to bore you here with the drama of us calling US Airways 15 times or checking the internet site 47 million times or Matt's pure anguish in realizing that his FAVORITE Einstein shirt was in that bag ("THOSE MAGNIFICENT BASTARDS BETTER NOT LOSE MY SHIRT!"). What is really important to know is that my make-up was in that bag, and on Monday I had to go to work with no make up.



In my family, going to work with no make-up is akin to walking to work in your underwear whilst carrying a nice juicy rib-eye for the neighborhood dogs. YOU JUST DON'T DO IT. Which explains why, with all the drama that was going on, I was sending Facebook messages to my Mary Kay consultant, imploring her for samples. And, because she is amazingly awesome, she came through. The next morning, her mom showed up to my office with a bag piled full of samples and one perfectly wonderful Lindor truffle. And the world continued spinning and I didn't have to call in a bomb threat to US Airways. Not that I thought of doing that at all.

(Yes, we finally got our bags back.)

So, I have used all those samples, constructing a different look everyday. Today, I was feeling spry, so I stuck my hand down in the still-full bag, closed my eyes, and pulled out shadow in Azure, which at first glance, I was like, "That is the same color as the water in Jamaica! It should be called Caribbean Blue." And while it should, that's a pretty douchey thing to think, don't you think? THERE ARE STARVING BABIES IN THE WORLD AND WOMEN WHO NEED MAMMOGRAMS. Now I know the self-loathing Mitt Romney must feel on a day to day basis, and it almost makes me feel something for the man. Ok. No, it doesn't.

ANYWAY, I have it on today, and yeah, it is bright, and when I put it on for the first time, I was like "WOAH NELLY." But now, I have to say, I kinda love it. And I kinda want it to be mine. I feel like if anyone notices or asks today, I can just say I am paying homage to Superbowl Halftime Performer, Madonna. TOPICAL. (I want to add here that I took a picture of my eye with my cell phone, but I didn't share it because it looked creepy, like a picture you might see on the killer's wall in a bad Criminal Minds episode. Just say no to eye photos.)

And I guess the bright eye shadow has me feeling an 80's vibe, because today since I am starting a new Friday tradition that will soon rule ALL our lives (Fashion and Beauty Friday--HOLLA AT YOUR GIRL), I am talking about NEON. And not Fleming-Neon, which is a high school marching band in Kentucky that is near where I grew up and who wore uniforms the same color as our marching band uniforms, and really, where do they get off doing that, and seriously, this is what I think of every time I say or think of the word "neon." Rather, neon clothing and accessories, which are having a bit of a moment this spring. While there is a huge "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" feel to say, a neon yellow bag, I have to say, I kinda like the trend. Maybe because I am just more prone to color when this time of year comes around. ANY COLOR. And because it is 60 degrees outside in February, and so I've just decided that it is time for spring, no matter what the calendar tells me.

But, there is a big disconnect between "liking" a trend on racks or on others, and actually wearing it. I find myself gravitating, more and more, to blacks and grays and some purples. So would I really wear a neon pair of pants? Hmmm. Even more problematic is a neon purse, like the one I saw at Target the other day. How weird would that look with the things that are already in my wardrobe? Let's see: PRETTY WEIRD. And even if it didn't, even if it looked cute with a black dress, how comfortable would I be with how the look influenced my own personal style? Is that worth whatever money I put down on it? Maybe not.

But then I saw this sweater, and I thought that perhaps this could be the marijuana to the rest of the trend's collective crack:
I adore the brightness of this sweater, the sunny feel. Yellow is a hard color to wear, granted, but how good would it feel to have this in your closet on a gray day? And, the good thing about it, is that it is not full-on acid yellow. Believe me--I have a 12 year old daughter who has been rocking the neon trend for a couple of years now. I KNOW ACID YELLOW. This is a gateway drug. You could wear this with black pants or denim trousers and fun jewelry or you could colorblock it with a bright pencil (or even more fun--a skirt in a fun print), and belt it with a turquoise or orange skinny belt. You could put your feelers out for more bright colors and see what else feels good. Who knows? Before long, you could be picking up that neon messenger bag at Target and knowing full-well what you are going to pair with it.

I don't know if I would wear it with the blue eye shadow.

So, before closing, I have to share a Great Neon Moment from the late 80's/early 90's. When I was a kid, my Granddaddy Jack would often give my cousin Amanda and me each a dollar and let us walk to the store about half a mile from his house. He would follow us a few minutes later in his awesome Oldsmobile and buy us a box of cookies and cream ice cream. The store was made of metal and smelled like Pall Malls and feed, which is the only thing that it really sold. Amanda and I would get there and look through the dusty candy and soda bottles and pick out something really awesome to buy. Usually for me, it was Cry Baby Tears, the sour hard candy, which did really, really weird things to your saliva. (Note: If anyone knows where I can buy this candy now, I'd love you forever.) One day, we went down there, and low and behold, they had this pair of neon green shoe laces. They were 99 cents. SCORE. I picked them up and told Amanda I was forgoing the candy and getting the shoe laces instead. Fashion to the core, you see. She informed me that I couldn't, and that I'd need extra money for tax. I hated the US government so much in that moment that it is a wonder that I haven't joined a militia group. I kept them in my hand, though, and followed Amanda around the store, basically begging here for the extra four cents. My grandfather showed up about that time and saw what I wanted, and said he'd buy them for me, "because with those things on your feet, I'd always see you comin.' "

Moral of the story: 1) I am an awful cousin, 2) My grandfather was great, and 3) Neon brings families together.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Things I've Learned About the World from Perusing Pinterest

This comes to mind....

You know, I freaking love the internet. It is awesome. I can sit at my desk at work, do my job, listen to Bowie at the Beeb on Pandora, get up to date news from Twitter and see what my friends are doing on Facebook. I spend my lunch everyday, reading the Blind Items on Gawker either on my desk computer or on my phone. It is my guilty pleasure--a very spicy sub from Subway ("So you like a little sub with your burning sensation?" said the sandwich guy the other day) and a bit of speculation over who may or may not be gay in Hollywood. NOT THAT THERE IS ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT. Even more indicative of my love and respect for Al Gore's creation is the fact that I am raising my children to love it too. Gabby is probably the most up-to-date internet kid that I know. She always knows about meme's before I do, seems to have an uncanny ability to get to a Wikipedia page before you've even asked her a question, and delights in being connected (don't worry-we do monitor her use, and cut off her Wi-Fi use at night).

BUT...nothing can make me madder than the internet. In fact, while I'm fixing dinner at night, my husband and I will very often find ourselves standing near the counter, drinking a glass of wine and detailing someone's Facebook activities during the day. There is a lot of eyerolling and a lot of "Where do they get off!" kinda stuff. This usually goes into a tired conversation we have about liking someone's offline persona a lot more than we like the person's online persona. And of course, we then start second guessing our own activities: "Did I come across as a douchebagess then?" or "Do you think my parents can tell what a foul-mouthed socialist I am?" (GUESS WHO WONDERS THAT?)

Pinterest adds a whole 'nother layer to that. I've detailed my thoughts on Pinterest before, and I have to say, I oscillate wildly on a day to day basis on whether I even like it or not. But I keep going back, just like I go back to McDonald's even though they keep fucking up my unsweetteawithlemonandfoursplenda. I go because part of me wonders what will happen next. It is just like getting on Facebook to read about the lives of people you grew up with just so you can feel a tiny bit more secure in your own particular brand of fuckery.

You can also learn things. Here's what I've learned.

1. People do some crazy ass shit to newborn babies. Having a baby is not fun. NEWSFLASH. Your body does stuff that it really ought not do, and then instead of getting to recover like it would, say, if an eight pound blob of flesh came popping out of your eyesocket, you have to go through a period of time where you're not getting much sleep and everyone wants to see you. After my kids were born, I spent every waking moment either trying to figure out how to get them back to sleep or how I was going to get to sleep again. Because newborns don't do anything. They are not fun yet. It is best just to let them sleep until they become real people. But you know what? The people on Pinterest didn't get that memo. You know what they're doing with their newborns? Putting them in fucking cowboy boots. For real, ya'll. I SAW THAT. A baby put in a boot. Like its body is in the boot, and the head is just there on top, like the cherry on top of redneck sundae. And not just once. A bunch of times, with assorted commentary like "Can't wait to do this with little Baighleigh!" or "SOOOOOOOOOOO CUTE!" No, folks, it is not cute. It is kind of bordering on abuse. All that baby wants is to sleep and have someone stick a nice full boob in its face every couple of hours. It doesn't want to be photographed, it doesn't want to have a huge fucking flower headband on its head, IT DOES NOT LIKE YOUR CHOICE OF FOOTWEAR. Leave it alone, and get some sleep so you don't push your crazy on the internet.

This is just one egregious example of newborn baby photography on Pinterest. I hate all of it. It is my not-so-secret hope that the newborns of the world will be given super smart serum and soon be able to overthrow their photographic overlords. The streets will be black with the broken hulls of Canon Rebels.

2. The only thing women love more than cupcakes is photographs of perfect six-pack abs. One day, I seriously did a count of number of baked goods to "thinspiration" photographs of Victoria's Secret models on the Pinterest "Everything" page. It is a strikingly similar number. It is especially rocking awesome when it comes from the same person in back-to-back posts: "Oh, here's a picture I love of a brownie drenched in caramel and then covered in ice cream and a sauce made purely of butter, cream cheese and heavy whipping cream. Making this next week!" and then "Someday I'll have abs like Gisele's! Fingers crossed!" My GOD, people. First off, the "thinspiration" stuff is sickening. Get healthy because you want to be healthy, because you want to live long enough to see Newt Gingrich die in a caustic explosion of evil, Old Spice and his own self-importance. It is not ok to starve yourself just so you can reach an ideal that is unattainable to 99.5% of the population, because SPOILER ALERT, it is not going to work. And even if you were to reach that ideal (or close to it) you wouldn't get there by posting pictures on a virtual pinboard. I suggest some running and maybe some sit-ups.

3. The more pictures you pin of living areas that are supposedly "just like mine," the more I will assume that you are a hoarder who stepped over three dead cats to make her morning joe.

4. People love looking at pictures of wedding dresses and nurseries. Even if they are neither getting married nor expecting a child. You know, I was going to complain about the emphasis on weddings on Pinterest, but you know what? I've expressed my ideas about weddings before, and really, I think using Pinterest to prepare for a wedding is a great idea. For instance, you can find pictures on the internet of things both wacky and conservative and cull them together to create your perfect day. Awesome. What gets weird is when you see people who are not engaged, or, even better, already married, picking out things as if they were getting ready to go through the whole process. Surely there is something more deserving of your time. could volunteer to read to the elderly...or get a part-time job so you can pay off your crippling debt....or, let's face it, just pin more pictures of Ryan Gosling eating nutella cheesecake to your board and remain pantsless.

5. There are some batshit crazy people on the internet, and they like Pinterest too. For every 20 or so normal Pinterest type postings on the "Everything" board (i.e., cakes, babies, rooms, boots), you get at least one thing that is just so fucking nuts, you really wonder why anyone would have even known it existed, much less thought they should post it to an online pinboard. Recipes for offal in which the cover photo doesn't even look like something of this planet? YES PLEASE. Facepainting tips for Insane Clown Posse juggalos? OH HELLZ YEAH. Private family photos in which someone is not wearing a shirt? YEPPERS, THAT'S A ROGER. So, really, Pinterest, like Facebook before it, is the great social equivalent, letting the crazy mingle with the disturbingly normal in a great virtual melting pot.

Wait...did someone say melting pot? Pictures of chocolate dripping? I MUST PIN THAT PICTURE TO SHOW YOU THAT I LIKE CHOCOLATE.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

On Top of Things

Yesterday, when I left work, I had plans to make today a day where I was purely and amazingly on top of things. I had planned my outfit, featuring a pair of J.Crew Minnie's that I just sprung for for a late birthday present. I had printed off healthy Weight Watchers friendly recipes for breakfast and dinner that I could buy the ingredients for and put in the slow cooker. I made big plans to grocery shop, head home, and then spend my evening finishing with the unpacking and laundry, and at some point, finally use the box of hair dye that has been languishing below my sink to make myself a deeper brunette and then cut my bangs.

And while I would love to say that I succeeded, I probably wouldn't be writing about it if I had. No, it turns out that while I have two slow cookers (one to use overnight for steel-cut oats and the other to fill with bolognese sauce for dinner), one had been languishing on top of our cabinets for God knows how long (because really, who needs two slow cookers?) and was covered with a greasy, icky film that I had neither time nor desire to really attack. So the steel cut oats were put off until tomorrow. I did manage to get the bolognese prepared and put into the slow cooker insert for tonight's dinner, but the mincing of the vegetables took so long that I ended up leaving a few dishes on the counter, dishes that smelled of the vegetable curry from last night and greeted me with a start this morning (this all could have been avoided had I remembered that I have a shiny new food processor just for this kind of thing). During the whole time that I was mincing those veggies, Alice was milling about my legs saying "Mommy, I tire, Mommy, I tire," and I kept saying, "Hold on, Allie, Mommy's making dinner," which really just confused the absolute hell out of her since we had just had dinner. When I finally sat down to get her to sleep, she was well past the point of no return, so she ended up sitting on the couch and eating my Special K crackers and watching Sesame Street while I passed out in bed with my book splayed over the pile of grapes on my chest.

I got up this morning, still with high hopes. But as I slipped into my new pants, I realize that they are just enough too tight to make wearing them for an 8 hour workday a tortuous proposition. The bad thing about where I am right now, weight-wise, is that I am between two sizes. Pants in the next size up are swimming on me by the end of the day, but there is that uncomfortable pinch in the next size down. So as I pulled them back off, I reminded myself that this is what Weight Watchers is for, this is why I ponied up for the service, this is why I intend on making February my TRACK EVERYTHING month. Easy enough, no "I'm too fat to live!" moments. I put on the denim trousers that I love and that I sigh in thinking will be too big by the end of the month if I work the plan the way I should and a cheery tank and a cardigan. Again, yeah, it is a uniform, but it works. And then I cut my bangs quickly and happily, tried some new colors of make-up from the plethora of samples that my Mary Kay consultant gave me, and went on my somewhat-merry way.

I say all this, not to give you an insider's glance at what constitutes a morning in my house (because really, I haven't gotten into the messy tango that is getting my two oldest children ready for school), but really to remind myself, and maybe you too, that perfection isn't possible. You make plans and if they don't get shot all to hell, you find yourself in the tenuous situation of trying to do as much as you can while the quicksand beneath your feet does its best to make sure that doesn't happen. No matter what I plan and what I imagine myself being--a thin-ish girl in black cigarette pants and heels--there is the unknown other that doesn't want that, that would much rather have me eating a bowl full of pasta with butter and salt, watching a Hoarders marathon. And that is my struggle. Perhaps it is yours too.

One way I want to slay this unknown is to really commit myself to Weight Watchers, so starting today, February 1, I am going to try to track everything I eat. I am such a mindless eater--a few of the kid's chips here, a handful of popcorn there, a small candy bar to eat on the way home from the store without even tasting it--and those things never get tracked. So that is my commitment. I also need to drink more water. I also need to plan meals for myself and the family better than I have been doing. Both Monday and Tuesday, I found myself in the grocery section of Wal-Mart at 5:00, talking to my husband on the phone as I walked around pulling stuff off the shelves that we "needed." According to Matt, we needed chips and Ranch dip and that is a perfectly acceptable side dish. When I reminded him about the Weight Watchers, he goes, "And chips and dip are bad? Well, I guess they are...." YOU GUESS? Fried potatoes dipped into sour cream MIGHT be bad. This is when one realizes they are married to Paula Deen, minus the diabetes and with a faster metabolism.

It is so strange to think about creating real, lasting change in one's life. On one hand, you feel that it must be so easy to just finally get your shit together, to create a home worthy of Pinterest pictures, to fashion a healthy lifestyle. But there are reasons why people strive for this and never quite get there--namely, it is hard. All one can do is to keep trying, I suppose, and temper those moments of planned perfection with the slothful moments in a Snuggie. The one victory I see for myself is that I am no longer hit with crazy, wild-eyed depression and anxiety when I find myself unable to measure up to those thoughts of perfection. I roll with the punches more--I go to my denim trousers and my new make-up and fashion myself back into happiness. Perhaps this is the true perfection.